We have a clear vision - why not build around it

Renaissance team success: Somerset House, Halifax
Renaissance team success: Somerset House, Halifax

Regarding “Streets Ahead and the library debate”.

I was interested to read the difference of opinion between Councillor Tim Swift and Tim Kirker re the references in Streets Ahead to the Piece Hall and the library (Courier, February 7 and 8).

Having taken a great interest in the excellent renaissance programme, both are right to some extent. Streets Ahead refers to the retail potential of the Northgate area but certainly makes no reference to the library moving.

The proposed solution to regenerate the Piece Hall on the other hand is for the building to act as a foyer, with new activities introduced around and bolted onto the Piece Hall to create more commercial potential. A library was not specifically referred to but other public uses were. So both Councillor Swift and Mr Kirker are right to a certain extent.

However, it illustrates how the whole issue of the library got off on the wrong foot by the failure of some very senior people in the council at officer and member level who initially chose to ignore the Renaissance Town Team and actively promote the clearance of the library and Northgate House and its move, at that time, to Broad Street. Whoever it was in the council who promoted this proposal, has kept their head down ever since!

Although with a change of political control at the council, the Town Team was then used to promote some excellent debates about the library, many remained suspicious.

Rather than build on this excellent work, the council again ignored the Town Team and announced the decision to move the library to the Piece Hall, without putting it in the context of the wider town centre.

Again the back-tracking to start a consultation process is a little like closing the door after the horse has bolted.

The problem is that some excellent work was carried out over the last few years, updating Streets Ahead and developing a Halifax Master Plan, only to be abandoned when new officers arrived in the council.

The Courier at the time did an excellent pull-out supplement and many people in the town took the trouble to respond to the consultation.

I attended some excellent talks on the renaissance programme and the Master Plan by officers no longer with the council, Margaret Barnes and Adrian Rose. They clearly both understood the centre and had a passion for improving the town.

It is sad to see such expertise and knowledge lost to the authority. This at least was a genuine attempt to discuss how the whole town centre could be improved and to involve the community in the debate.

The Renaissance programme achieved a great deal in the town; Elsie Whiteley Centre, Westgate Arcade, Somerset House and works around the Minster.

Why not revisit the Halifax Master Plan and build new proposals around this? At least it sets out a clear vision for each part of the centre for both the general public and developers to understand.

Geoff Price

Delph Hill